News of a tentative agreement between New Era Cap Co. and its workers in Derby, NY, who have been campaigning for almost a year to improve factory conditions, probably will not influence the University?s decision to resume its contract with the collegiate apparel manufacturer, said Committee on Labor Standards on Human Rights chair Larry Root. Until April, New Era was one of 500 licensees contracted to manufacture University apparel, Root said. The University chose to terminate its contract after a 90-day process when the company gave unsatisfactory responses to allegations about violations of labor standards and let charges go unanswered, he said. Despite news of the future contract ratification and that workers are going back to work July 1, Root said the University has no plans to reconsider its decision. ?There have been no changes in the committee?s recommendation on New Era,? Root said. ?If there is new information or changes in the New Era situation that the committee may feels are germane to our recommendation, the committee may re-visit this issue.? He added that current discussion and possible agreements between workers and New Era are useful, but unless the labor standard violation allegations are directly addressed, he does not foresee any changes in the committee?s views. ?I think coming to an agreement is a good thing but that doesn?t alone solve the problem,? he said. The alleged violations were noted in a published assessment by the Workers Rights Consortium from July 2001, which stated that ?the rate for cut and puncture injuries at Derby is 15 times the industry average ? (and) 46 percent of current Derby workers have been diagnosed by a doctor with a musculo-skeletal disorder.? Jackie Bray, a member of the steering committee for Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality, said SOLE was attracted to the ?alarming? health and safety standard violations in New Era?s factories. Members of SOLE, along with United Students Against Sweatshops members from other universities have spent the last year pressuring colleges across the country, including University of Iowa and Duke University and University of Wisconsin, to cut their contracts with New Era unless they improved their working conditions. In addition to the violations, Jane Howlad, president of Local 14177 of the Communications Workers of America, said workers went on strike when New Era proposed to cut wages by 50 percent while simultaneously raising production quotas. They wanted ?more hand movement for less money,? Howald said. Though Root admitted to not hearing of any problems with New Era until last year, he said the committee cautiously reviewed its information before making its decision because they wanted to correct violations of the labor code, not cut jobs. ?Different people have different views to get a change,? Root said. ?No one wants to be hurting workers.? Howlad said students offered a ?tremendous? amount of support. Before they showed interest in the cause, she added, no one knew where Derby was or what the workers? produced. ?I can?t imagine where we would be without the students,? Howald said, adding that the pressure students placed on campus administrators helped draw national attention to the issues in Derby. Bray said that she is pleased with the impact she believes SOLE had on the company. ?I think when students organize and connect to workers? struggles we win and I think that?s empowering and incredible. Students can change industries and ? affect the lives of ? community members. We need to consider these workers part of the community.? But SOLE was not the only group working to spread awareness about the conditions at New Era. Through informational pickets in four feet of snow, letter writing campaigns to Major League Baseball players and appealing to religious and political leaders, Local 14177 informed the public of its cause. When students first showed interest in the union?s cause, Howald said she and her colleagues were hesitant but amazed by the students? dedication. ?These kids are so connected to workers rights,? Howald said. ?They came in when we were having problems and without their help, we?d be in a very, very different situation.?

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